Premier Sports commentator Aaron Murphy believes Sunday’s Challenge Cup Final could come down to discipline and special teams.
The broadcaster will be behind the mic along with Paul Adey, calling the action for Premier Sports on Sunday as Cardiff Devils and Sheffield Steelers go head to head for the first trophy of the season.
And he’s excited to be covering his first Challenge Cup finale as he prepares to head to the Welsh capital for what will be a great occasion.
“I’m really looking forward to the game and it’s a great match-up between the top two teams in the league, who also play each other on Friday night as well,” Murphy said.
“It’s actually my first time covering this game because it’s either been on other platforms or been a webcast so I’m excited to working at this one.
“Looking ahead, I think it could come down to special teams, to be honest and I’ve been looking at the powerplay and penalty kills.
“Sheffield are good on the penalty kill and I’m surprised their powerplay is low for the firepower they have so it could be down who’s powerplay is the hottest.
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“It could also come down to Tomas Duba versus Ben Bowns in their respective nets and what they do on the day, bearing in mind how good they are.
“There are so many storylines to this and it’s poised nicely. It’s possibly the best possible final we could have.”
‘Murph’ has followed the competition extensively and has done his research into both sides in an attempt to determine who could come out on top.
And he highlighted who could play their part, with a number of key men for both sides likely to be involved in the big moments.
He added: “Personnel have changed in a lot of ways, but guys like Ben O’Connor will remember losing the previous finals against Cardiff and there could be a matter of revenge for the Steelers, who have never won this competition in the EIHL era, which is surprising to me.
“Cardiff have won three of course and while technically, Sheffield are the “home team”, the Devils will want to protect their home ice and it’s going to be a fantastic occasion.
“For the Devils, it’s their fifth final in six years and they’re finding some good form right now. Everyone talks about the league as the main thing, but this is the first bit of silverware of the season.
“Remember, they trailed in both legs of their semi final with Nottingham Panthers and turned it on in the third period in both games, taking the win in the second leg and they’ve taken the bull by the horns in this tournament in the last few years.
“As I said, Duba has been magnificent, as has Michael Davies and Sheffield seem to be able to score at will. If they can get ahead on Sunday, you don’t want to be Cardiff having to chase the game.
“On the day, if Ben Bowns plays the way he did against Belfast in the quarters and in the latter stages of the semi final with Nottingham, he’s a man that has that big game swagger about him.
“I remember the play-off final last year when everyone was talking about Tyler Beskorowany and how good he was and how Giants had the advantage in goaltending, but then came Bowns to play his part.
“If he comes out with a point to prove, he could be huge for Andrew Lord’s side. There are such talents up and down the lines and you’ve got Blair Riley, looking for another Challenge Cup to add to the two he won with Belfast and his Spengler Cup success too and he could be a big difference maker.
“It could come down to discipline and it’s two teams who don’t like each other. There’s bad blood and they’re in the mix for the league too. An interesting contest is certainly in prospect.”
*Sunday’s Challenge Cup Final is live on Premier Sports 1, starting at 3.30pm from the Viola Arena